The Coahoma County High School girls finished winless this past basketball season, but that did not stop 2021 graduate Tyana McClenton from being able to continue her career in college.
McClenton, a power forward, announced last week her decision to play for Coahoma Community College next season. She will be wearing No. 15 just as she did with the Lady Red Panthers.
McClenton finished the 2020-21 season with CCHS averaging 6.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.
“It’s already home,” said McClenton on her decision to play for CCC. “I feel comfortable. I know everybody. They know me. I want to go where I feel comfortable.”
The Lady Tigers were the Region 23 Tournament runner-ups and co-conference champions last season. That made McClenton’s decision to be a Lady Tiger that much easier.
McClenton was also a Class 2A state runner-up for CCHS in eighth grade and as a junior. The Lady Red Panthers lost the championship game in overtime as a junior.
“It felt good,” said McClenton of the Lady Red Panthers’ successful seasons. “It felt good going to state. It just didn’t feel good losing. We lost in overtime. That didn’t feel good. It hurt because we made it all this way just to lose, but then CCC went all the way and they won. They went all the way, but they lost the last game they played.”
McClenton will be reuniting with her high school teammate forward Nakia Cheatham.
Cheatham is a 2020 CCHS graduate and was on both runner-up teams with McClenton. Cheatham lost in the championship game for a third time as CCC was the Region 23 Tournament runner-up.
McClenton believes as she and Cheatham reunite they will be able to get over the hump and win a championship.
“I think we can win it all, yes,” McClenton said.
McClenton and Cheatham already have a built-in chemistry as teammates.
“That’s my sister,” McClenton said. “We were the two post players. We always got each other rebounds. We always played each other. We were competing against each other, basically. That’s my sister. I’m ready to play her again.”
Even though the Lady Red Panthers were Class 2A state runner-ups McClenton’s junior year, she expected the team go through growing pains her senior season.
“My team was young,” McClenton said. “They really didn’t get any playing time like I did. I was the only junior that played with all the seniors. I started with all the seniors. They didn’t have as much experience as I did playing, so I know they went out there and had nerves. But they did come around. They had made progress.”
Going from the brink of a championship to a winless season was still an unusual experience.
“We turn around and we are 0-9,” McClenton said. “That was crazy. I have never lost that much – not nine games. We’ve lost like three, four or five.”
As the Lady Red Panthers regressed in wins, McClenton’s stats suffered, but she stuck with the program.
“I was frustrated,” McClenton said. “I never once quit, though. I was really frustrated.”
The 2020-21 season was shortened due to the COVID pandemic.
McClenton had to miss some of the games that were not cancelled.
“It was just a disappointing season,” McClenton said.
McClenton has played since her fifth grade year at Lyon Elementary School. Her love for the game motivated her when things became tough.
“What motivates me is myself because every game I come in, I’ve got to better, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to go hard, go strong,” she said. “This motivates me in my mind. I want to keep playing basketball on the next level. I love basketball.
“I love winning, but when you lose a game, it’s going to teach you something. It’s going to keep teaching you. It’s going to keep building you. It’s going to work you to get better to try to win something, at least. But we did it. We came close to winning something, but we didn’t.
“It taught me you’re going to get frustrated, but don’t ever quit. Don’t ever give up on your team. Always play hard. Teach them something. Give them something they can reflect on.”
Reflecting on her career as a Lady Red Panther, McClenton most enjoyed playing against cross-town rival Clarksdale High School as well as Greenville High School.
“Clarksdale, we always have big crowds, big fans, support, love, all that,” McClenton said.
CCHS’s games against Greenville were always competitive.
“They don’t like losing,” McClenton said. “We don’t like losing. It’s always been a close game. It’s always been tough.”
Through the ups and downs, McClenton will look back on her high school career fondly.
“I love playing for Coahoma County,” she said. “The people love us. I love the people. They love us. They’re always going to turn up at the games. If it’s something dealing with Coahoma County, they’re going to turn up.”
McClenton sees herself as tough in the post and hopes to bring that mentality to CCC.
“I’m a tough player,” McClenton said. “I can take charges. I can take things. Other post players, don’t be afraid of contact.”
However, McClenton said she needs to work on her dribbling.
“I’m not a guard or anything,” McClenton said. “I can’t dribble like that. I’m going to work on my dribbling and my midrange shot.”
McClenton said her goal in life is to be rich. She noted she does not need to be famous, but she would like to be rich where she has everything she needs.
She plays to major in athletic training and physical therapy. Her inspiration came from watching a movie.
“She was a physical therapist in the NBA,” said McClenton of the character in the movie. “That’s what I want to do. If I make it to the WNBA, I want to work in the NBA.”
McClenton sees herself as a cool person.
“You’re going to have fun. You’re going to laugh a lot with her,” said McClenton of herself. “Anyone that’s been around me, you’re going to laugh, you’re going to have fun. I’m a cool person.”